[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

The Resurgence of Japanese Militarism
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2003


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In recent months, there has been considerable discussion and speculation about whether Japan will send troops to Iraq. The emergence of this issue, while intriguing in itself, is a sign of something far more critical: The resurgence of militarism in Japan and how it should be regarded by the United States.

The Japanese constitution, adopted at the end of the Second World War contains an Article 9, which provides: “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation…and that land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

The intent of this provision, drafted by the American victors, was clear. Japan which had launched the war in the Pacific was never to rearm again. Never to pose a threat to its neighbors or to the United States. For added protection, U.S. military bases were established in Japan which had dual purposes of providing security to the region while keeping military control in Japan.

In the more than fifty years since the adoption of the constitution, Article 9 has had a curious interpretation. Japan has not established a state of the art military machine with the latest high tech weapons. However, it has created one of the largest standing armies in the world under the misnomer of civil defense and ostensibly for the purpose of assisting in the event of calamities such as typhoons, fires and the like. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda stated publicly that Article 9 did not prevent Japan from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that were the order to be given these forces could rapidly be converted into one of the world’s most efficient fighting machines.

The popular view in the United States is that this will not happen because the Japanese people do not want it to. The argument is made that they have learned their lesson about trusting the military after Hiroshima and the ignominious surrender to the United States on the U.S. battleship Missouri. The Japanese will be content to be a great nation making automobiles and television set, many believe.

In research for my new novel, Conspiracy, which will be released in January, I examined the validity of this popular view. I concluded that it may have been valid in the past, but is now incorrect and ignores clear signs and critical factors facing Japan.

The proposal to send troops to Iraq, inconceivable five years ago, is but one of these clear signs. Another one is the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to the Yasukuni Shrine war memorial, which was popularly viewed as showing deference to the military. A third has been statements from some in Tokyo that the Japanese military did not behave as badly in China as has been popularly believed and that in any event that is all in the past. A whole generation has come of age. For them, there is a need to crate a powerful military for pride and national defense.

Increasingly, one hears in Tokyo the sentiment that Article 9 should be rescinded. “We have paid our debt for what happened in the war.” No other nation, even the Germans who killed more than six million innocent civilians, is forced to endure such a humiliating legal requirement.

At the same time, the decline and fall of the Japanese economy has led to expressions of renewed nationalism, i.e., militarism. This may seem counterintuitive, however, there is a school of nineteenth century Japanese political philosophy, which states, “strong army; strong nation.” Without a strong army, a nation cannot be great.

An even more important factor is what has been happening around Japan. China is emerging as a military power second only to the United States. Memories are long in Asia. Can the Japanese feel secure with this military behemoth a short distance away while hatreds from the last war are still simmering on both sides of a narrow gulf?

The possibility of nuclear arms in North Korea, another bitter historical foe of Japan, has become a threat to Tokyo. Add to these the Taiwan issue. Should Taiwan fall into Chinese hands, which appears to be increasingly likely, the sea routes by which tankers bring precious oil—the lifeblood of Japan, a nation with almost no natural resources, will have to be lengthened at great cost to the Japanese economy.

If we assume that the march toward an enhanced military in Japan is likely, that raises the question of whether it should be encouraged or discouraged by the United States. A few years ago, no one would even have dared raise the question. Now, there are some analysts in the Pentagon who are finding it a close question. One major factor is influencing their thinking.

That is China.

Make no mistake about it. The twenty-first century will be a struggle between the United States and China for supremacy in the world. Economic and otherwise.

We have to assume that there is a hard core of rulers in Beijing who will be prepared to utilize their military prowess if political objectives warrant it. The bloody quelling of the Tiananmen uprising establishes that fact. Recent bellicose statements toward Taiwan and the huge number of missiles pointed at the heart of Taipei are further confirmation.

In considering whether to retake Taiwan by force, it will be easy for decision makers in Beijing to miscalculate the will of the United States, heavily extended in Afghanistan and Iraq to come to the aid of Taiwan. But some in the Pentagon argue, suppose there was a strong Japanese military in the area. The dynamic would be totally different.

The equation would also be changed for the hawks in North Korea. We would have something more than hoping for goodwill and support in Beijing to aid us in this dangerous game of Russian roulette with Pyongyang.

So much of our attention is currently focused on Iraq and the Middle East. In the years ahead, that is likely to shift to Asia. Looming on the horizon is a Pacific triangle involving the United States, China and Japan.